The Édouard VII, the theatre with a location as unique as its history, couldn’t have asked for more. In place of the Café Guitry – named after the man who monopolised the stage for nearly a decade – now stands the aptly named Froufrou. A restaurant with a bar in the speakeasy style, combining the creative attention to detail of two essential figures in the French art of living. Brought together by Benjamin Patou, Juan Arbelaez – executive chef in charge of the kitchens – and Alexis Mabille – who has put his stamp on the decoration of this, his first showcase – are reviving the sumptuous style of La Belle Époque. That same period that saw the heyday of the Édouard VII, a tumultuous place of liberty where boulevard theatre and foreign plays were presented by the best actors of the day. The MOMA Group has spared no expense to ensure that the heart of the Paris of yesteryear beats just as strongly today. Carte blanche. The two thirty-somethings had free rein to express their idea of celebration! Our plates are filled with exceptional produce, a piece of theatre in itself. Marrowbone to share, coquillettes truffées, confit shoulder of lamb with thyme and Menton lemon. What do they have in common? They are all designed to be shared. It goes without saying that you have to have sharp elbows (and a fork) to taste these dishes that are as generous as the spirit of this place, which is on a par with Le Vieux Paris. Limits disappear here. Exactly the effect desired by the designer, who makes Froufrou an extension of the foyer. By plunging us into the plush surroundings, encircled by heavy curtains in deep colours and with details as carefully applied as those of an haute-couture design, the Parisian succeeds in transporting us. The illusion is achieved. It is a joy to lose yourself here.
Froufrou, 10 place Édouard VII – 75009 Paris. Restaurant: open every day from 12 noon to 00.30 am. Bar: Tuesday to Saturday from 6 pm to 9 pm and from 11 pm to 2 am. Telephone: 01 47 42 92 55.
Juan, Alexis, can you introduce yourself?
My name is Juan Mario Arbelaez Guarin, I am a chef and restaurateur. I run six restaurants and am proud to be executive chef at Froufrou. I’m a fan of cooking and sports, and I am an entrepreneur and passionate photographer.
I am a fashion designer, and lifestyle decorator for pleasure. I have always been around textiles and they have brought me luck.
How did you find yourself involved in the Froufrou project?
Benjamin Patou came to lunch once in one of my restaurants, one thing led to another, and we said to ourselves that we would probably collaborate one day!
I had known Benjamin Patou for a long time, and had been telling me about a project and then came the day he took me to the Édouard VII theatre to ask me for my opinion and if I was ready to do the decor. I was delighted to agree. After that, everything happened very quickly.
The Édouard VII theatre, how was it as the backbone of the project: inspiring?
Of course! For me, the table should be where the show takes place, the stage should be the plate and the actors the exceptional products that we put on it. With its subdued lighting and music, the atmosphere of the restaurant is an essential part of the Froufrou experience.
Yes, it has to be! It was the theatre’s story, the favourite characters who had inspired it and these decorative elements that very quickly gave me the idea of what I was going to do: to awaken the spaces that had been sleeping.
Alexis, what have been the key steps in transforming your first space?
First the concept, then the colours and the fabrics, and then the redesign of the space to bring this restaurant to life, ready to set the whole of Paris buzzing!
Are some of the processes similar to fashion? Which ones did you prefer – those which were problematic?
It’s more or less the same process: design, creation, development and production from the idea taking shape through to the desired end result. The hard part is reworking an old building, they’re always full of good and bad architectural surprises.
What was your thought process in designing the decor?
I wanted to work with an idea of timelessness, of a place revived as if it had slumbered unchanged for years. To create comfortable meeting places, where you like to come and go. Then, for the decor, I mixed different worlds and eras to create a sense of the diversity of the individuals who have lived through the times and been part of the history of the theatre. Like a large dining room-lounge with a felted finish and structured with mirrors and lights reflected in the overmantels.
Did this experience in interior design inspire you?
Of course, but it’s not my first time. I have always been immersed in the decorative arts, and I like this relationship between place and creativity that creates a lifestyle. Fashion and the place where it is worn are both parts of the same world.
I wanted to develop a generous cuisine where boundaries are quickly lost, a place where you eat a little too much, drink a little too much and laugh a lot too much!
Juan, does the idea of dishes to share come from you?
We started out from the French idea of sharing, and I wanted to develop a cuisine inspired by the Roaring Twenties in Paris. A generous cuisine where boundaries are quickly lost, a place where you eat a little too much, drink a little too much and laugh a lot too much! The main dishes in the middle of the table, the plates to share and that’s it: that’s how we do froufrou!
Why this way specifically?
We wanted a cuisine with the same identity as the place: naughty, teasing and generous while still remaining chic.
Your ideal evening at Le Froufrou – Théâtre Édouard VII?
Thursday night when have organised your Friday!
Come to the first sitting, curl up on the mezzanine among the mirrors and see in the reflections what happens when the rhythm rises and the audience is having fun!
Photography: Valerio Geraci – Text: Caroline Balvay – Translation: TextMaster @thesocialitefamily